K to College Launches Effort to Help 400,000 Bay Area Students

80 Superintendents, Teachers & PTAs Join State’s Largest School Supply Nonprofit to Help 400,000 Students

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Hundreds of happy students were treated to a special Valentine’s Day surprise at Anne Darling Elementary School in San Jose today, as they became the first beneficiaries of a Bay Area wide effort to provide every low-income student with school supplies by this fall. Each of the school’s 560 students, 80% of which are enrolled in the subsidized lunch program, received a $65 school supply and dental kit as the kickoff of a collaborative effort to serve 400,000 next fall, equivalent to the entire Bay Area subsidized lunch population.

Releasing a joint support letter signed by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and the Presidents of the California Teachers Association, California State PTA, California Dental Association and more than 80 school district superintendents, the effort is being headed by the Oakland-based nonprofit K to College. Distributing more than 175,000 kits worth $12,000,000 in the last two years, K to College has built a unique business model that produces up to a 200% match for every dollar while maintaining a very low operating cost.

“San Jose Unified is focused on closing the opportunity gap for our students. These materials truly make a difference in the lives of our students,” said San Jose Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Vincent Mathews. “It is essential that every student attends class with the confidence that accompanies being prepared. K to College’s program helps to offer an effective solution for the growing number of students unable to acquire these critical resources as a result of the economy.”

Initially exclusive to San Francisco and the East Bay, K to College began building a Bay Area model by hosting a conference at the Santa Clara County Office of Education. “At a time when funding for our schools is historically low, K to College offers a solution to a basic but critical need of every student— the instructional materials necessary to learn,” said County Superintendent Dr. Charles Weis who cohosted the conference. “The partnership between K to College and our school districts ensures that important materials and benefits go to the students who need them the most.” Since the conference K to College has entered into five-year partnerships with more than 50 districts with several more pending.

K to College’s model is the brainchild of their Director and Founder Benito Delgado-Olson. It functions on two core principles: to build market power for the public benefit and to develop partnerships at every step of their process.

Through a partnership with Give Something Back Office Supplies, K to College is able to leverage a network of manufacturers willing to produce up to a 200% in-kind match on every dollar. “This program is an excellent example of how the non-profit and for-profit sectors can collaborate to solve social problems,” said Mike Hannigan, the company’s President and Cofounder. Furthermore, with the passage of Senate Bill 608 authored by Senator Mark DeSaulnier last year, the kits are assembled at Folsom Prison as the community service component of a greater rehabilitation program that teaches low-level inmates how to build steel-framed buildings.

Through these and other partnerships, K to College is able to provide one supply kit worth approximately $65-70 at a cost of only $22. “The solution is before us, all that is needed is the proper support,” said Director Delgado-Olson. “These materials make it easier for students to learn, teachers to teach and classrooms to thrive and they are only what we would demand for our own kids.”

Echoing that thought was Carol Kocivar, President of the California State PTA. “Like that old children’s song about ‘no more pencils and no more books,’ our students and teachers are living in a classroom world of ‘no more’ lots of things. The K to College model offers a powerful and innovative solution to the growing material resource gap in public education.” Subsidized lunch enrollment, which requires economic hardship as the main criterion, has surged to record levels across the state.

Yet as K to College and their supporters state, where there’s crisis there is opportunity to make things better than before. “K to College’s effort to provide 400,000 students with the materials they need to achieve is a wonderful example of how nonprofit organizations can partner with our schools to help our neediest students,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. “Their success will not only mean a brighter future for many Bay Area students, but can serve as a model for the state and others to follow.”

The grade-appropriate supply packages contain items such as paper, pencils, erasers, folders, glue sticks, index cards, art supplies, a white board, a dental hygiene kit and a tote bag. To learn more about K to College please visit ktocollege.org.